Owls Head

Normally, a two day hike in November would not be worthy of a spot on the list of “Half Ass Expeditions” especially if the trip features but one original HAE member. Alas, there was more to this hike than the brochure revealed. Two new recruits, night hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and the 4000 Peak Bagger phenomenon all wrapped up in a neat 20 mile adventure. Lace up, we’re going hiking with HAE.


Introducing Brendan Patrick and Brent Philman, two new HAE team members. As the on-going recruitment continues, Half Ass Expeditions was invited on a walk in the White Mountains with these new prospects. Doug Shackleton and Dave Hillary had set up a weekend shakedown so that Brent and Brendan could be evaluated for possible inclusion into the HAE team. Timur Novasch was representing HAE and shouldered a pack to see if these guys were gomers or guides.


“HAE 2.0” assembled at the Lincoln Woods parking lot at 9:00 PM for a short night hike to the base camp. The Team was fired up and the new guys started right in proving they were HAE material. Booze flowed like the raging Pemigewasset River they could hear as they hiked along in the darkness. An easy start to the expedition, the first 4 miles were a flat cakewalk down an old railroad bed. As they staggered down the trail, Timur butchered the old Commander Cody classic with a refrain of: “the Ranger said… son, you better stop hiking and drinking in the Woods called Lincoln…” The weather was unseasonably warm as well so it was actually pleasant for drinking hiking at night.


The 5 man expedition into the dark wilderness hiked the 5 miles to the campsite fairly quickly. Each member carried in their own shelter and within minutes, the pristine wilderness is turned into a nylon trailer park complete with white trash. After a quick meal and a round of hot toddys, it was time to rest up for the ascent of Owls Head.

Upon waking, Timur noticed one of the crew has left. The conjecture among the remaining team was the Half Ass Expeditions experience was too much for Philman. After lingering in base camp discussing Philman’s hasty retreat, the hikers finally take to the trail much later than planned.


Doug Shackleton was the featured guide on this trip, choosing the location and assuring the team that an epic adventure was ahead. Timur was immediately suspicious, thinking he was about to be dragged into another pointless 4000 foot mountain from a list Doug was anxious to complete so he could sew another 2 grams of nylon on to his backpack. It was clearly evident Doug was suffering from PBF, Peak Bagger Fever.


On the second river crossing, Timur was getting nervous. Clearly they would be making these same crossings at night. Catching up to Shackleton, Timur voiced his concern. Shackleton dismissed the notion. “Nah, we’ve got plenty of time.”

Timur was not convinced.

The scramble up Owls Head was a challenge. No more than a giant landslide turned trail, the extremely steep slope and the loose rocks demanded concentration with each step a calculated foot fall. Over a mile of painful scrambling to a summit with no view. Timur’s suspicions were correct… a pointless peak had been bagged. As the team sat on the boring summit, Timur expressed an urge to turn back. “This time of year the sun drops fast”, he stated and shouldered his pack.


Indeed the sun dipped behind the mountain and the darkness descended on the hikers just as they left the landslide. There were still 4 miles to hike back to camp with at least four rivers to cross. The headlamps were guiding them once again as HAE 2.0 hiked through the night. The rivers were crossed with no issues and the team walked successfully back into basecamp as dry as a popcorn fart.

The celebration commenced. Timur was impressed as Brendan Patrick assembled a blaze in record time, embracing the spirit of Half Ass Expeditions. The team raged “white trash night” for an hour or two before the rain arrived. Each hiker was sent to their shelter as the party was officially shut down.

snow ringOvernight the temperature dropped and so did some sleet, hail and finally a touch of snow. Climbing out of a warm sleeping bag was invigorating. Within minutes the stove was rocking and the kettle was steaming. As Doug, Dave and Timur sipped from steaming mugs, they suddenly realized Brent Patrick’s tent was gone. Did HAE annoy him so much he could take no more? Was he humbled so greatly he could not face the rest of the Half Ass Expeditions team?

It was time to break camp and head back to civilization. Apparently, Doug and Dave had beer to spare. Not wanting to carry any back to the car, it was trail drinking once again through the Lincoln Woods. After an unremarkable hike to the parking lot passing soap scented tourists and baby stroller pushing flatlanders, the remaining three backpackers stumbled into Black Mountain Burger for a feed.


Despite Brent and Brendan’s premature evacuation, Timur expressed an interest to continue the evaluation process get these two guys into HAE. “New blood is essential for the Half Ass Expeditions phenomenon to continue.” Timur remarked. “Without a fresher younger team, HAE will perish, trees will thrive and gomers will walk the earth.”

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